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Hilary & James share their Canada holiday story

Hilary and James went on our Trans Canada by Rail tour. Here's what they had to say:

Canada has been on my 'bucket list' long before the term was coined, add this to my husband's love of rail travel & the lure of your advertisement in the Radio Times proved irresistible.

We are now, with their enthusiastic approval, 'spending the kids' inheritance', so although it cost more than what we would usually spend, I rang up Canadian Sky to check it out. Holly, the agent, was knowledgeable and helpful, and my first tip is, to take their advice! Although the cost escalated we went with her suggestion and upgraded to Gold Leaf. We continually congratulated ourselves on this decision as we saw what other passengers were missing out on. I chose 'standard' hotels and although we were warned that the country ones may not be of the same standard this wasn't so and they all exceeded our expectations of comfort and spaciousness, we loved the huge comfy beds and easy to use showers.

Holly went 'off piste' when she booked us into the Fairmont's Chateau Lake Louise hotel where the word 'luxury' is inadequate! Our room was the size of a small London flat and beautifully equipped. The marble-fitted bathroom was a joy. We spoke to other guests who had asked for a lake view and they'd paid for that by having very small rooms.  The hotel's meal prices were frighteningly high, second tip: our coach driver pointed out the way to their 'deli' which is open 24 hours and where the 'take-away' style food is good and affordable. We had all our meals there, forfeiting the splendour and enticing view of the lake from the formal dining room.

There were so many 'WOW' moments on this trip of a lifetime, but probably the biggest was Lake Louise where we arrived in hot sunshine and sat on the edge of this stunning blue water, ringed with snowcapped mountains, trees and beautifully tended gardens. We watched the rowing boats pottering about and agreed that it was our idea of paradise. 

Next day we walked along the edge of the lake to its head - a lovely, scenic, memorable morning, again blessed with sunshine. Naturally it attracts crowds of tourists from all over the area, but early in the morning it is not too crowded. Prior to Lake Louise we'd boarded Via's trans Canada train in Toronto. Nerves apparent as we approached the receptionist at the VIP lounge at the station. We were apprehensive initially every time we had to redeem one of our paper 'vouchers ‘in order to access a service; kept thinking someone would say that our names were not on their list and the booking hadn't been made! Shouldn't have worried. Everyone we met was equipped with a wallet-full of vouchers and the Canadian tourist industry is run like the most successful military campaign you can imagine. It doesn't go wrong! We never failed to be impressed with the organisation, efficiency and time-keeping of every aspect of this tour. But back to the station where we were allocated a cabin, treated to refreshments and then individually visited by train staff who answered all our many questions. The real personal touch. We spent 4 days and 3 nights on the Via train and experienced a wide variety of scenery. The Dome car, though chilly, was a great vantage point and the meals were excellent.

The almost unending 'wows' though started as we entered Jasper National Park. Breath-taking scenery. At Jasper’s delightful tiny town, we dis-embarked and that was the start of the very best bit. Day bus excursions revealed magnificent, majestic scenery- blue glacial lakes, rivers, fall and of course the trees, just turning a luminescent yellow gold. We walked on the Athabasca glacier, another 'wow'.

In Banff, after another wonderful bus tour, we waited in the dawn for The Rocky Mountaineer. The sun slowly rose (a spectacular sky) and the train emerged from the gloom ringing its bell - a real movie moment. The welcome was superb, we were spoiled from beginning to end. I now have some idea what it must be like to be royalty; the train crew even roll out a red carpet for you to walk to the train's steep steps! Wow indeed! Luggage is spirited smoothly away to await you in your hotel room. Nothing to worry about except enjoying the attentions of the knowledgeable, friendly staff, the superb food, comfortable viewing cabin, and, of course, the awesome scenery. Never to be forgotten.

There is so much I've had to omit.

Final 'tips':

  1. Don’t purchase your Visa on the first on-line site you visit. We paid $49 for what should have cost about $5!
  2. Book a hotel 'apartment in Vancouver. It saves a lot of money on food & gives a lot of freedom.

Great holiday; fabulous memories (can't stop talking about it).  Thank you to Holly Reid and all the team. You exceeded our expectations.

We would like to thank Hilary & James for sharing their story with us and hope to welcome you on another holiday soon..

If you would like to provide us with your own holiday story please contact


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